The Dark Side

C&F hates the fact that he doesn't hate Mark Richt. C&F is ashamed to admit that he actually kind of likes the coach of the spelling-challenged Dawgs.

In fact, now that Bad Richt has begun to sneak out a little bit, now that the once-choirboyish coach has developed a bit of an edge, it's even harder to hate the guy. Because even when he's not being classy, Richt has a dash of class about him.

Which brings us to the Rumble in Jacksonville. (That might sound like the implosion of a noxious chemical plant, but it's not.) For those of you coming late to our show, Richt inspired his players to all rush the field after the team scored a touchdown in the annual showdown with Florida. That marked the beginning of Georgia's re-emergence as a Top 5 team in 2007 and, many hope, the end of the Gators' recent dominance in the rivalry.

It also marked a moment that royally pissed off Urban Meyer, who held forth in his autobiography, How to Wear a Leather Jacket While Claiming the National Title and Not Look Like an Idiot Urban's Way.

That wasn't right. It was a bad deal. It will forever be in the mind of Urban Meyer and in the mind of our football team. We'll handle it and it's going to be a big deal.

Fair enough. But maybe not. After all, Richt said Thursday at SEC Media Days that he intended only for the offense to celebrate excessively -- not for the entire team to rush the field. (Whether or not that makes any difference is questionable.) And he apologized rather quickly.

"I called Coach Meyer on Sunday. ... I said, I was a coach desperate to try to get some enthusiasm, and I was willing to take a 15-yard penalty," Richt said.

And he admitted to the media that he had been wrong to order the demonstration.

But the new Richt also couldn't resist getting in a last jab against Meyer when asked about Urban's comments about the riot.

"I don't think there's any doubt it's intensified the rivalry," he said. "But what intensified the rivalry is that we won, okay? I mean, that's the reality."

Did the maneuver turn around the team's season? Depends on who you ask. Nineteenth-year senior wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said it didn't play as much of role as getting demolished in a 35-14 beatdown at Tennessee a few weeks earlier.

"I really think that we got outmanned and all the players, we responded, we showed that we can do better," Massaquoi said.

But Richt himself said the team didn't show much more emotion in sliding by Vanderbilt 20-17 the next week. And senior defensive tackle Jeff Owens also pointed to the celebration as a turning point.

"I felt that we needed some kind of fuel just to get the guys on the right path," he said. "That celebration helped us out. I mean, it didn't help us win football games, it just gave guys more motivation to work harder, to get better."

Richt, for his part, doesn't feel the need to back down.

"Now, how am I going to be this year? I'll probably be very much like I was from mid-season on. I'll be a little more free."

Florida isn't the only team hoping it won't work twice.

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